Monday, 27 February 2017

Musical Monday #124

And now, finishing off the February love theme, is a musical number that bored me to DEATH when I was a child.

A Whole New World from Aladdin
Performed by Brad Kane and Lea Salonga
Written by Alan Menken and Tim Rice.

Exactly how long did dumb dumb Aladdin think he could pretend to be a different person?  Jasmine cottons on before he even whisks her away for this romantic carpet ride.  He makes no attempt whatsoever to act differently, but he wants to marry her.  How far into the marriage was he hoping to get before the fact that Prince Ali looks, sounds and acts exactly the same as Aladdin was going to become obvious?  Or does he think Jasmine is as dumb as he is?

Monday, 20 February 2017

Musical Monday #123

Thought I'd carry on the love theme from last week.

Can't Help Falling In Love from Blue Hawaii
Performed by Elvis Presley
Written by Hugo Peretti, Luigi Creatore and George David Weiss

Monday, 13 February 2017

Musical Monday #122

Since it is St Valentine's Day tomorrow, I thought I'd better go with a love theme for Musical Monday.

So here's a nice number for couples who have been together a long time.
Do You Love Me? from Fiddler On The Roof
Performed by Topol and Norma Crane
Written by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick

And for people who are alone, there's this:

All By Myself from Bridget Jones's Diary
Song performed by Jamie O'Neal, scene performed by Renée Zellweger
Written by Eric Carmen (and Sergei Rachmaninoff)

Sunday, 12 February 2017

The Top 10 Scariest TV/Film Moments From Childhood

I was the youngest person in The House, growing up.  So I often saw parts of films and TV shows that were not suitable for my age group.

In some cases, this was a good thing.  I was familiar with things like Red Dwarf and Blackadder from pretty much as far back as my memory goes, so I had a more sophisticated understanding of wit than other children my age. 

In some cases though, this was a very very bad thing.  For example, I once saw a sketch from Not The Nine O’Clock News in which Rowan Atkinson put his hand into a mystery box, which contained a mincer and his hand got minced.  It was the most disturbing image I had ever seen.  Until I saw some of Akira, in which a guy grotesquely transforms really big, crushing his girlfriend until she pops, an image that still haunts me.  And then there’s the episode of London’s Burning, in which a fireman saves a little girl’s pet guppies by putting them into a tank of piranhas.  My memory of it is this:
And thanks to Monty Python’s The Meaning Of Life I still can’t tick the ‘organ donor’ box.
And then there’s Robocop.  You know that bit where the ED-209 malfunctions and kills that guy?  I was so traumatised by this scene that my memory skewed into the robot killing everyone in the room, Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre style.

But like I say, this stuff wasn’t suitable for me, so of course it scared (and scarred) me.

What’s weirder is the stuff that was suitable for my age and still managed to warp me for life.

And here it is.  The Top 10 Scariest TV/Film Moments From Childhood:

10. Jurassic Park: Velociraptors

When I was little, I loved dinosaurs.  I would totally have been a palaeontologist if that had been a thing they taught at school.  Back in those days, dinosaurs were this cool, fun, exciting thing that you learned about with cheap luminous toys, cutesy movies like The Land Before Time, and lots of colourful books about the best historical era of our planet ever.

Then, in 1993, suddenly dinosaurs stopped being every kid’s best friend, and became the villains in a horror movie.  Well, kind of.  Anyway, all of a sudden dinosaurs weren’t FUN any more, they were SCARY.

Everyone who knew me at school knew I was terrified of dinosaurs.  It was kind of a joke, because it wasn’t like dinosaurs existed, so what’s to fear?

I didn’t even see Jurassic Park when it was at the cinema.  But I heard about it from The Brother and I imagined it.  Specifically the scene in which Ellie goes into the maintenance shed and finds Mr Arnold has been eaten by the velociraptors.  I imagined this scene so vividly, that I was scared of walking past any darkened doorways for fear of what might lie within (velociraptors).  So when I finally did see Jurassic Park, although that scene was less gratuitous than my version, the velociraptors were even more terrifying.

Skip ahead to 1:58

Sometimes I got so scared when I was on my own in a building that there were raptors in there with me too that I couldn’t move in case that alerted them to my location.  I still hate walking past darkened open doorways.

9. Ghost Busters: Dana’s Abduction

I can recall as a kid that The Brother complained bitterly about not being allowed to see Ghost Busters when all his friends could, because The Mother knew it would give him nightmares.  Considering he’d have been about six when it came out, I think she made the right call.  I don’t know when he was finally allowed to see it.  Too late, according to him.

But oddly, I don’t recall this ban applying to me.  And guess how old I’d have been around the time we got it on video.

I had this fear as a kid.  I know this whole post is about stuff that scared me when I was a kid, but this was my biggest fear.  I was afraid of devil-wolves.  These were hounds of hell with red eyes and blood dripping off their giant fangs and claws who were hunting me. 

I don’t know where this fear started, but there are certainly some moments in films and TV that could have been the catalyst, or simply made the fear even worse.  This is one of them.

Dana is alone in her apartment, talking to her mum on the telephone.  We can see light glowing behind her kitchen door.  She hangs up and slowly becomes aware of a strange growling noise.  She looks at the kitchen door and sees it's being warped as if something is trying to force its way through from the other side.  Just as she whispers ‘oh shit’ a clawed hairy hand bursts out of the arm of the CHAIR SHE IS SITTING IN and grabs her over the mouth.  Two more hands burst out of the chair, holding her down as she struggles and screams, as the chair turns towards the kitchen.  The door opens, revealing a dog-like monster with glowing red eyes and huge fangs, snarling and roaring at her, and the chair shoots into the kitchen, the door slamming behind it.

The fact that there is something faintly rapey about this scene makes it five thousand times more disturbing.  If you can’t trust your own armchair, what’s left?

8. Knightmare: Deaths

Kinghtmare was a children’s programme in which teams of four kids would play a pseudo virtual reality RPG fantasy game.  Three of them would give instructions to the fourth, who couldn’t see what was going on.  Trouble is the communication between the kids was poor and the kid in the simulation would often get killed.

The problem was, I didn’t know it wasn’t real.  When that kid fell to his doom or got cut in half by a rotating blade or eaten by a giant talking wall, I thought he really was dead.  I’m pretty sure you’d see all four kids leave, alive, at the end, but for whatever reason I didn’t notice or accept this.  I think I thought it was some kind of terrifying limbo for lost souls (that’s what poor green screen can do for you).  I didn’t understand why anyone would go on this show – presumably they were forced into it, possibly it was the punishment for children who were naughty, and every week was a terrifying ordeal as I watched some poor kid get executed live on TV.  And you wonder why I was such a well-behaved child.

7. Eerie, Indiana: Dogs

I love Eerie, Indiana.  It's one of my favourite TV programmes, and I’m convinced it heavily influenced me and my writing as a child and I’m forever grateful that such an intelligent show was made and that I got to see it when I was a kid.  I adored it.  I really did.  Except...

One of the earliest episodes, ‘The Retainer’, is about this kid who gets one of those massive external retainers (brace) and somehow this allows him to understand what dogs are saying. 

No big deal, except it turns out that dogs hate humans and are planning a glorious revolution.  At one point Simon is playfully wrestling with a German Shepherd, unaware that the dog wants to eat him.  Later the dogs escape the pound and kill and eat the mean dog catcher.  And during the climax, they insist that the kid remove his retainer so he can no longer hear them.  Scared, he struggles with it as the dogs get more threatening and finally panics and runs for it. The dogs give chase.  We never seen him again, but at the end, the German Shepherd brings the retainer back to Marshall.  How did those dogs get the retainer that was attached to that boy’s face?  Well I know how.

THIS is why I’m not a dog person.

6. Round The Twist: Santa Claws

Unlike Eerie, Indiana, Round The Twist does not live up to rewatching it as an adult.  It’s goofy, poorly written and poorly acted.  But I watched it all the time as a kid.  Honestly, I’d watch any kids’ show with a faintly surreal premise in the hopes that it could replace Eerie, Indiana, which had finished in the early nineties.  Nothing ever came close.

Anyway, Round The Twist was always really, really gross.  People got covered in garbage and bird poo, and ate dog food and dead flies, and kissed pigs, and peed up walls and toads ate each other.  But in one particular episode, it went too far.  Pete meets Santa Claus – actually Santa Claws, a revolting, dirty man with clawed fingernails.

Could only find the ENTIRE episode rather than just a clip. Watching from 9:49-11:20 should be enough to get the idea.

And I have never trusted Father Christmas since.

5. Return Of The Jedi: AT-ST Walkers

Okay, these STILL scare the hell out of me.  When I was a kid, I didn’t understand that they were vehicles.  I thought they were giant monsters who wanted to kill us.  But their jerky stride just freaks me the hell out.  Oh god, they’re coming.

Nope, even this is scary.

Only in compiling this list have I realised the reason they scare me so much is probably because ED-209 is so similar in look and motion.  That goes for velociraptors too.  Any kind of animated two-legged thing that brings death is likely to make my brain melt in utter terror.

4. The Neverending Story: Gmork

I started watching The Neverending Story with The Grandmother once.  We turned it off when the horse died because it was too distressing.  So many years later when I finally watched the film all the way through, imagine my surprise when there was the exact replica of the devil-wolves I had always been so scared of.  Trouble is, Gmork doesn’t enter the story until after the horse dies, so I couldn’t possibly have seen it, so how could this have influenced me?  Ah, but wait.  There is one tiny moment when Gmork is first called out of the darkness.  This terrifying creature emerges in a horrifying moment. 

Gmork is actually much less scary once he starts to talk.  But since I never got that far, he was just a beast of darkness relentlessly pursuing the hero.  Add this to that Ghost Busters scene earlier and suddenly my devil-wolf fear doesn’t seem quite so inexplicable to me.  Hollywood has a lot to answer for.

3. Disney’s Alice In Wonderland

Which moment in Alice In Wonderland scared me?  All of it.  A little girl gets transported alone to a dark, trippy dreamworld full of weirdoes who go out of their way to hinder her and no one helps her when she gets lost and cries and then they all want to kill her.  I hated this film.  It was the most terrifying story I had ever seen in my life.

The worst part was when she finds a path home and then a dog-brush sweeps it away.  See, you just can’t trust dogs.

2. Tales Of Beatrix Potter: Squirrel Nutkin

Tales Of Beatrix Potter is a ballet in which the dancers are dressed in huge costumes of Beatrix Potter’s most famous characters.  I used to watch this all the time when I was tiny.  I think it may have been the first thing I ever really watched.  Potter’s stories can be a little dark, but in storybook form you can kind of gloss over it.  But translating it into giant human-sized action makes it so much more disturbing, probably because of the lack of expression, and because they are giant monstrous freaks.  Anyway.

The squirrels take tribute to the GIANT OWL.  Squirrel Nutkin prances about, taking the mick.  This goes on for about five minutes.  Then suddenly the GIANT OWL who has been completely stationary up until this point suddenly grabs Nutkin and drags him, struggling, into the tree.  The other squirrels freak out.  Silence falls.  Then Nutkin escapes the tree, tailless, and his tail is thrown out the top of the tree after him.

It’s the GIANT UNMOVING OWL that just lurks there, a horrifying, threatening presence, that's so disturbing.  But then it actually savages one of the squirrels!  OH MY GOD!  Okay, so he wasn’t eaten, but he was ripped apart.  THIS IS SCREWED UP!

1. Sugar Puffs Adverts: Honey Monster

There was a series of sugar puffs adverts in the early nineties or late eighties referred to as the ‘I want my honey’ adverts.  Basically, a kid would see a box of sugar puffs they couldn't reach and say ‘I want my honey’.  Only their desire for sugar puffs would cause them to hulk out and turn into the Honey Monster.  As they said ‘I want my honey’ their voice would transform into the deep growl of the monster, they would expand and grow yellow fur, bursting out of their clothes.  The monster would then rampage and eat all the sugar puffs.

Once again my childlike innocence was the problem.  I didn’t understand that the children were turning INTO the honey monster.  I thought the honey monster was taking them over in some kind of horrific body-snatchers way, that the monster was killing the child as it burst out of them.


I genuinely thought that the Honey Monster ate children.  I hated the Honey Monster for ever more.  And sugar puffs are gross anyway.  They turn the milk GREY.

(This confusion also caused me to assume the same thing with the Incredible Hulk, which is why I was terrified of him and subsequently the Jolly Green Giant who I thought was the same person.  Sugar Puffs and tinned sweetcorn; they’re all child killers.)

So compiling this list is going to give me sleepless nights for some time.  I hope you appreciated the ride.  What TV and film moments terrified you as a kid?

Monday, 6 February 2017

Musical Monday #121

"Stop prancing about!" - uh, she knows this is a musical, right?

Eglantine from Bedknobs And Broomsticks
Performed by David Tomlinson and Angela Lansbury
Written by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman